The Necks @ QPAC

From minimalism to the sonic chaos of everyday life

The Necks enter the QPAC stage in darkness. They stride to their instruments and are somewhat illuminated as a couple of light bulbs come on. Pianist Chris Abrahams begins with a simple piano riff. It rotates around the bass note, falls and starts again.

They might not move, say anything or even look at the audience; but there is certainly a kind of showmanship to The Necks. Drummer Tony Buck takes about a minute to lift his drumstick up to shoulder height; and then he slowly and methodically leans over the ride cymbal and starts to scrape away at it with the end of the stick. Bass player Lloyd Swanton plucks at a single, pulsing high note endlessly.

Abrahams' piano is slowly branching out to the higher register of the scale. He sits hunched at the instrument with his back to the other two band members and the audience on my side of the theatre. Buck has now picked up a cymbal and is scraping it across the skin of the floor tom. It makes a low creaking sound. He scrapes it back the other way. How long has Swanton been playing that one note? Ten minutes? Fifteen? Who knows. I've lost track of time; stuck in the vortex of The Necks' repetition and tiny incremental changes.

At some point I realise that Swanton has changed the octave of his singular note and is now bowing the string instead of plucking. What? How did I not notice the change? You turn away for one second and you miss everything. But for some strange reason, we audience members are like the frogs in the boiling pot - being carried by the song's tiny changes without realising. It seems the tempo and intensity has lifted - and then you realise that Buck has started playing his bass drum.

My mind wanders for a bit. I catch myself, and wonder whether it is because the music, having left behind the extreme minimalism, is closer to the sonic chaos of the everyday world. Or maybe it's just because the band has now been playing the same chord for half an hour.

The song is not even close to over though. Having built it up, the band are now in free jazz mode - fluttering piano keys, frantically bowed bass and relentless beating on the tom and ride cymbal. It sways and ebbs, guided by some invisible force, until it starts to slow and the instruments drop out; leaving just a slowly tinkling piano. It peters out and the lights go down. The song has been going for an hour.

There is a twenty minute interval then they return for a second set. This one starts with a complex bass riff and the rattle of all kinds of percussion instruments. It's straight into an uptempo jam. Impressive musicianship, but I have to admit I found it less compelling than the crawling buildup of the first one. Few bands have the ability to draw you totally into another world - to hear every tiny sound and feel every incremental change. The Necks at their best though do exactly that.

Andy Paine

Zed Facts

In November 2013, Queer Radio was chosen by an independent panel of judges to win the CAN Awards 2013 Media Award. The Community Action Network Awards were first introduced in 1997 to recognize achievement that is positive and makes a difference in the inner city areas of Brisbane. Coordinated by the New Farm Neighbourhood Centre, the award citation reads "For excellence in journalism/social media which promotes the social inclusion and equality for all".